Clean Air Act Rules for VOCs from Commercial Products

Posted on 9/11/2017 by Anthony Cardno

Ground-level ozone (O3) is an air pollutant. But very few processes emit O3. Most ground-level ozone is the product of the breakdown of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). In order to control the concentration of ozone in ground-level atmosphere, the Clean Air Act (CAA) requires the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to study the effect of consumer and commercial products that emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in relation to those emissions’ potential to affect ozone buildup in the ambient air.

To limit VOC emissions into the ambient air, US EPA sets requirements at 40 CFR 59 for manufacturers, importers, and distributors of commercial and consumer products that emit VOCs.

Products currently subject to VOC standards in 40 CFR 59 are:
  • Automobile Refinish Coatings.
  • Consumer Products.
  • Architectural Coatings.
  • Aerosol Coating.
  • Portable Fuel Containers.
The standards apply primarily to manufacturers and importers of regulated products. In the case of consumer products, the rules also apply to any distributor named on the product label.
For each category, the EPA has established:
  1. Standards for maximum VOC content per product category or subcategory.
  2. Container labeling requirements, documenting when the product was manufactured or imported.
  3. Procedures for measuring and documenting compliance, including reporting and recordkeeping standards.
  4. Specific exemptions and procedures for obtaining variances from the standards.
Of course, the details vary from program to program, depending on the product category. As an example of how the program is meant to work, let’s look at Aerosol Coatings.

Working Example—Aerosol Coatings

EPA requirements for VOCs in aerosol coatings (e.g., spray paint) are found in 40 CFR 59, Subpart E.

40 CFR 59.501 establishes who must comply with the aerosol coatings rules: manufacturers and importers of aerosol coating products and, in certain situations, distributors of aerosol coating products. Retailers can be considered distributors in this context, since distributors are defined as “any person who purchases or is supplied aerosol coating products for the purpose of resale or distribution in commerce.”

Exclusions from Aerosol VOC Requirements

Excluded from the aerosol coating requirements are aerosol coatings manufactured for sale outside of the United States (i.e., “export only”). There is also a slight exclusion from certain requirements for “small quantity manufacturers,” defined as anyone whose total VOC by mass manufactured at all facilities in a given calendar year, aggregate, is < 7,500 kg.

Calculating Product-weighted Reactivity (PWR) Limits

The program establishes product-weighted reactivity (PWR) limits, which can be found in Table 1 of 40 CFR 59, Subpart E. PWR limits apply to the final coating product, including the propellant (for instance, auto body primers have a reactivity limit of 1.55 O3/g).

40 CFR 59.505 provides a series of equations—and two alternative methods—that environmental professionals can use to calculate the weighted reactivity factor (WRF) and the PWR of their aerosol products.

Labeling Products That Contain VOCs

Each product must then be labeled with the product’s aerosol coating category, reactivity limit, the date on which the product was manufactured, and the name and contact address of the regulated entity. The label must be conspicuously placed and readable without needing to remove any part of the product packaging.
The regulated entity must maintain records for each product that include the:
  • Product category.
  • Complete product calculations.
  • PWR.
  • Weight fraction of all ingredients.
  • Date the batch was manufactured and the volume of the batch.
  • Recipe used for formulating the batch.
  • Number of cans manufactured in each batch and each formulation and a copy of the product label.
These records must be kept for a minimum of five years, in a suitable and easily accessible place for review and inspection.

Navigating the 40 CFR regulations is a crucial skill for EHS professionals. When you know where to look for certain requirements, you save time and cut down on confusion and uncertainty. Also, knowing where to find critical requirements can prevent violations that could now cost your company up to $95K per day, per violation under the Clean Air Act. 

Tags: aerosols, air quality regulations, Clean Air Act, EPA, VOCs

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